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Social media was abuzz with the news of Sanjay Leela Bhansali’s new movie poster featuring Alia Bhatt as Gangubai Kathiyawadi. Here’s all you need to know!
Sanjay Leela Bhansali is known for his powerful and historical films Ramleela, Bajirao Mastani, Padamavat and Black to name a few. So expectations from him are always high. And he doesn’t fail to impress. Yet again, his poster of his upcoming film has grabbed the attention of the tinsel town.
The poster feature Alia Bhatt in a new avatar is intriguing and we can’t stop guessing the name written on it- Gangubai Kathiyawadi. On researching further, I learnt that it is the story of a young girl, Ganga, who was sold into prostitution and eventually became a mafia queen in Mumbai.
Ganga was born in a well to-do family of Kathiawadi, Gujarat. Her name was Ganga Harjeevandas Kathiawadi. Ever since she was little, she wanted to become an actress and dreamt of fame and money.
As a teen, she found love and ran away with her father’s accountant to Mumbai and started living in a lodge. Ganga, with dreams of becoming a star in her eyes, had no clue what life was about to throw at her. Destiny had different plans- a black chapter- for her. Her husband sold Ganga for a mere Rs. 500 to a brothel. She was Ganga no more, now, she was Gangubai.
Ganga was merely 16 when she was caught in the trap of sex work and brothels. She was helpless but did not lose courage. In the brothel, Ganga often met criminals and goons. At that point of time, Kamathipura was the largest red light area in Mumbai.
Once, one of the goons of Mumbai’s don Karim Lala raped Gangubai. She raised her voice against the atrocity because she often said, she may do what she did to earn money but that did not mean anyone could touch her without consent. In her quest to find justice, she went to Karim Lala and demanded he give her justice. He was stunned by her courage and offered her the entire business of the brothel.
Gangubai went on to become powerful and eventually even became the mafia queen. Despite her power, she made sure no one else suffered the same fate as her. She ensured that no girl stayed in a brothel without her consent. Gangubai also did a lot of good work for the women who worked with her and their children.
This was the time when there was a huge movement against sex work in Mumbai. According to an anecdote, Gangubai went to Delhi to meet the then Prime Minister Jawaharlal Nehru to stop the moment against the business. Apparently, during the conversation, she raised her voice for the rights of the sex workers. When Nehru asked her why she chose to do what she does instead of getting a ‘good’ job and a husband, in her style, Gangubai retorted, “Make me Mrs. Nehru, I will stop the movement immediately.”
Nehru was annoyed at the response to which she said, “I was just showing you practicality. Saying anything is better than doing something.” The government had to stop demolishing the brothels soon after. She managed to be powerful enough that people would shiver at the mere mention of her name. What’s more is that she even has a statue of herself in Kamathipura!
Author S Hussain Zaidi wrote Gangubai’s story in his book Mafia Queens of Mumbai. There is a part where he tells how Ganga became Gangubai, about her first night in brothel. Here is an excerpt.
“She was forced to wear a red wedding dress and were made to sit on a bed. Her lips were coloured blood red and a huge nose ring adorned her nose. An old song played again and again in an old gramophone. The setting reminded her of wedding night with her husband. She was clueless why and where she was. Suddenly a door opened. She was scared seeing a red eyed man. Under his gaze, she felt naked. The 16-year-old had no idea that this was her first night in the brothel business. That man touched her and polluted her soul.”
This is not just a story of any sex worker or a lady mafia, but a story of her courage and how she survived. Some work for survival and some are forced by their own people.
Gangubai was sold by her own husband. She was betrayed but never lost hope. As a mafia person, she may committed crimes but she used the same power for the upliftment of women and children.
Here’s hoping Gangubai does great as a movie!
Picture credits: Instagram
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